How the Oakland a’s Found a Pitcher Thanks to Social Media

It takes a lifetime of practice, training, and dedication for a baseball player to make it into a Major League Baseball team’s farm system. Once in the system, the player’s hopes turn to eventually taking the next step and making it to the big show to become one of just 750 players on the 30 teams’ active rosters.

Even making it into a team’s farm system isn’t an easy task as players are often scouted for years before being drafted or signed by an MLB organization. But for 23-year-old Nathan Patterson, all it took was going viral.

Who is Nathan Patterson?

Patterson is a Kansas native who played baseball while attending Blue Valley High School — until a freak play shattered his elbow and his dreams of making a career as a baseball player. So after graduating high school, he started a landscaping business.

Not happy with the direction his life was going, Patterson decided to move to Austin, Texas, where he got a job at a software company. After the firm opened an office in Nashville, Patterson and his girlfriend moved there in January 2018. When his parents and siblings visited seven months later, Patterson unknowingly got back on a path toward a potential baseball career.

Attending a Nashville Sounds game

When his family visited him in Music City, Patterson decided to take them to a Nashville Sounds game. One of Patterson’s friends suggested they test their arms at the Speed Pitch Booth. While his friend topped out at 65mph, Patterson reached 96 mph on the radar gun, the first time he had ever thrown a pitch faster than 90 mph.

Patterson was skeptical of the number, thinking “they jacked up the numbers to make you pay another dollar to throw another ball.” Patterson brushed it off at the time but continued to think about it. A couple of weeks later, he went to a Nashville training facility where he threw 92 mph off the mound. That was when he realized a baseball career might still be a possibility.

An eventful start to 2019 for Patterson

Fast forward to January 2019. Patterson tweeted a video of himself throwing pitches, which earned him attention from college coaches and agents. He says he “was just blown away from the exposure and the power of social media.”

Shortly after, Patterson signed with an agent and set up a Pro Day. It was attended by scouts from six organizations, including his hometown Royals, but he didn’t end up signing a contract. Then in July Patterson attended a Colorado Rockies game with his brother, Christian. He again went to the Speed Pitch Booth, tweeted a video of Nathan hitting 96 again. The video garnered more than 2 million views, and Nathan signed with the Oakland A’s organization a couple of weeks later.

Joining the A’s organization

Two weeks after signing with Oakland, Patterson made his professional debut. He started for the Athletics Gold Rookie League team against a Cubs affiliate. He faced only three batters, but he had a successful debut outing.

The viral sensation struck out the side on 18 pitches — and he got all three batters out swinging. Patterson still has a way to go before he’ll be on the A’s radar to get a call-up to the major league roster, but if he can get his performance up to that level and eventually play in a major league game, it would be an incredible story. Especially after thinking his playing career was over after suffering the elbow injury in high school. But Patterson’s story is a good example of the power that social media has in the modern world.